Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler today asked the federal government to revoke permits for two "free speech" rallies planned by right-wing groups, saying the events would further inflame a city where a white supremacist is charged with murdering two people.
Events held around Portland this spring by the alt-right"—a collection of online agitators and white nationalists—have repeatedly turned into violent political standoffs between extremists on the left and right. The accused murderer, Jeremy Joseph Christian, was an enthusiastic participant.
Wheeler said he would not issue permits for the next two events, both planned for next week by Vancouver, Wash. online provocateur Joey Gibson. He said the federal government had permitted one rally in Terry Shrunck Plaza, which is federally owned, and asked the feds to revoke permission.
"Our city is in mourning," Wheeler said, "our community's anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation… I am calling on every elected leader in Oregon, every legal agency, every level of law enforcement to stand with me in preventing another tragedy."
It is not a symbolic gesture. Unpermitted marches are the rationale that the Portland Police Bureau has used to crack down on political rallies on the left, deploying tear gas and stun grenades. Wheeler's statement raises the prospect of riot police trying to shut down a coalition of right-wing extremists that includes biker groups, militia men and celebrity brawlers.
Antifascist groups had already pledged to shut down the next scheduled event, a "free speech" rally planned for June 4 that has attracted some of the biggest names in the alt-right. Faceoffs between alt-right and antifa groups, resembling something like livestreamed gang rumbles, have become increasingly common in Portland and nationwide since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
On Friday, that political violence turned into an act of horror, as Christian—a fringe figure even by the standards of the alt-right—allegedly cut the throats of three men who tried to stop his anti-Muslim abuse of two teenage girls on a rush-hour MAX train. Two of them died. A third is in the hospital.
Wheeler's statement today begins by honoring those three men, and ends by asking Portlanders to honor them with their choices in coming days.